Home News Vision Spotlight: Women’s right to vote turns 100

Spotlight: Women’s right to vote turns 100

0
Photo Courtesy of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives From left, social pages editor of the Daily Record and suffragette Grace Thorpe Bear, Daily Record employee and suffragette Conie Bear Mason and city editor of the Daily Record Cecil Bonney — in the Record office at 315 N. Main St., December 1915.

The Daily Record part of the suffrage movement

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

On Aug. 26, throughout the U.S., New Mexico and Roswell, Women’s Equality Day will be celebrated. It marks the day in 1920 when the U.S. secretary of state signed the federal proclamation recognizing Congress’ ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was passed by Congress in 1919. The 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote.

In Roswell, Mayor Dennis Kintigh will be reading a proclamation live on the city’s Facebook page, @RoswellNMGovernment, at 1 p.m.

Support Local Journalism
Subscribe to the Roswell Daily Record today.

Because of the pandemic, other plans for celebrating the day have been adapted to virtual platforms as well.

At 2 p.m. Eastern Time, noon Mountain Time, the National Women’s History Museum invites the public to a free special virtual screening event featuring, “Finding Justice: The Untold Story of Women’s Fight for the Vote,” followed by a live moderated panel discussion featuring filmmaker Amanda Owen and former Treasury Secretary Rosie Rios. To register, visit its Facebook event page or its Facebook page @womenshistory.

From 4 to 7 p.m., join the live presentation out of Santa Fe on YouTube for a non-partisan virtual celebration of the women’s vote centennial/ratification of the 19th Amendment at youtu.be/sA4mqaSChFo. The celebration will create a tapestry of women standing together, showing the strength and power of their vote. An 18-year-old woman from each of New Mexico’s counties will speak the first year they are permitted to vote along with a woman from each of the 50 states and Washington D.C. briefly stating why they vote. One Native American, one Black and one Hispanic woman will share their history about the struggle to vote accompanied by songs from those cultures.

Other performance pieces will honor the women’s vote. The program includes brief remarks by some New Mexico women leaders, including Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, Supreme Court Justice Judith Nakamura, and U.S. Reps. Deb Haaland and Xochitl Torres Small. A new program that will help survivors of domestic violence access low-interest loans will be launched. Martha Burk will speak on economics, women and the power of voting, and Olivia Friedman will read excerpts from her book, “2020 and Beyond, The Next Steps for Women.”

According to an email from Meredith Machen, history chairperson of the League of Women Voters-New Mexico, proclamations have been done in Santa Fe, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Los Alamos. Gov. Lujan Grisham’s proclamation on Jan. 1 declared 2020 as the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Year. For more information about upcoming elections, visit lwvnm.org.

The National Hispanic Cultural Center, city of Albuquerque and League of Women Voters-New Mexico has been collecting photographs from New Mexico communities. These photos will commemorate the upcoming Women’s Equality Day and be preserved in an archival collection that documents how New Mexico celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Women’s Vote.

“As a tie-in to the PBS special ‘American Experience: The Vote,’ NMPBS produced four podcasts on the women’s suffrage movement in New Mexico and voting rights,” Mechem wrote. “New Mexico has a unique place in the fight for the vote because of our history as a Western territory that had various political structures and cultures long before statehood. Women’s clubs, made up mostly of Anglo-Protestant women, began to organize around suffrage in New Mexico in the 1890s. But those early efforts did not include women who were of Native American or Mexican American ancestry. Hispanic women were crucial in getting the 19th Amendment passed in New Mexico. Journalist Megan Kamerick did an excellent job. Check out nmpbs.org for the podcasts.”

We reached out to Roswell women to learn what voting means to them. These women come from all walks of life, they are politicians, business women and artists. Each woman was given three questions: If they voted at each election; what voting meant to them personally and if they remembered the first time they voted.

Tanya Kraft

“My parents modeled the importance of our vote by taking us with them to the polling place. I couldn’t wait until I was able to vote myself. And, when Rick (Kraft) and I became parents, we modeled the value of our opportunity to vote to our two young children by taking them with us when we voted.

“They are registered voters now, and I hope they continue to impress the importance of their right to vote to their own children when the time comes. I don’t miss an opportunity to vote — it is my constitutional right, my opportunity to make my voice heard.

“I remember my first vote — I was so excited. I was a freshman at Baylor in Waco, Texas. My sophomore year was a presidential election year, and the frontrunners came to Waco. We got to see candidates. A few years later, I was invited to see the candidate I voted for win a re-election bid. Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration turned into a time I’ll never forget. I got to chaperone a group of area high school students as part of the Republican inaugural delegation. What an amazing opportunity it was to be in D.C. for Reagan’s inauguration. On inauguration day, an announcement was made that U.S. hostages held 444 days by Iran had been freed. It was a joy-filled atmosphere.”

Hilda Linares

“I have not voted at every election and saying that just made me think how bad that is. How can I complain or say anything at all? Whether I agree or not with what changes are made and who is making the changes, I silenced my own voice. I was too busy. I had something else to do. I’m sorry now. It won’t happen again. My vote counts and it is very important that we all vote.

“The right to vote is very important. I am giving a voice to Hispanics who can’t vote on important issues.

“I am a woman who understands how hard women fought for this right. I am a woman who understands that if we don’t vote, decisions will be made that as a woman I may not like and I have daughters and granddaughters to think of.

“My first time voting I did a lot of research. I asked a lot of questions. I will go back to that frame of mind.

“Our country needs to reflect and come together. We can and will make a difference on the upcoming elections.”

Denise Mathis

“To be able to vote means: I have a say — I count in certain matters.”

Jenna Lanfor

Lanfor said that she had voted at every election.

“It means I have a choice and a voice.

“I remember the first time I voted and how important I felt contributing to the decisions and the future leadership of the country I call home. I was 18.”

Asked if she remembered how that first time voting felt, Lanfor said, “A little scary and intimidating but exciting also.”

Candy Ernzen

“I vote on every election.

“I feel it’s important and a privilege to have the right to vote. So many people in some countries don’t have that privilege to have their voices heard. We may not always get who we want elected, but our votes are counted and do count. By voting, we have a voice and that’s so important.

“Our ‘fore Mother’s,’ struggled to have their voices heard — as women in today’s world, we would be very remiss if we didn’t continue to be heard.”

Judy Stubbs

“I’m pretty sure I’ve voted in every election I have been eligible for. It’s not just a privilege and a right to me, it’s also a responsibility. Along with that comes the responsibility to educate myself with the issues and what candidates stand for.

“Having the right to vote is a major obligation. Not only is it an important action in keeping our country free, but it’s the way I can express my individual feelings and participate in the larger process.

“The first time I voted was in Deming, New Mexico and we actually went into a booth and pulled ‘the lever’ for each candidate and issue. I was petrified that I would pull the wrong one.”

Cristina A. Arnold

“Whether it is a primary election, general election, school board election, municipal election or special election, I vote. I do not take my right to vote for granted, I value it immensely. Because the women of the suffrage movement were willing to sacrifice their lives to be beaten up and thrown in prison for my right to vote, not only do I value that right, I consider it my duty to vote. A duty that requires me to ensure that I spend the time educating myself on ballot measures and candidates before I cast my vote. My vote is my voice.

“Politics was not a topic discussed in my house growing up, but when I was 16, I became interested in the message that Ross Perot was sharing during his presidential run in 1992. When I realized that I was not old enough to support him with my vote, I was very disappointed. That disappointment helped me to realize at such a young age what a true privilege it is to have the right to vote and utilize it.”

Looking back

It is hard to imagine that at one time, women were considered feeble-minded, treated like children with no say over their own body, kids, education, livelihood or property. This point of view had a long history, reaching back to Europe and the Roman Empire. The European and Scandinavian tribes had equal rights long before Rome was founded. The Roman invasion brought not only bureaucracy, but also Roman law — where women had no rights at all — not to mention, introducing the “barbarian” tribes to the concept of organized slavery to keep the Roman empire running.

Fast forward to the beginning of a new concept of a country, the United States of America and the idea of freedom in all its forms, represented in its Constitution. While white men were still in charge, the American woman became a fierce believer of the United States’ values. However, just as the fight for independence from Great Britain, the Women’s fight for equality and voting rights would not be easy.

In some history books, it says that the right to vote was given to women. This was not the case. The right to vote was not given, but fought for throughout the states for 72 years until finally won. It took even longer for Native American, Hispanic and African American women.

Why was the 19th Amendment necessary? After all, the 15th Amendment, which was ratified after the Civil War in 1870, seems to be very clear. In Section 1 it says, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

It says citizens, which should include men and women.

The interpreters of the law, judges and politicians had a different opinion who “citizens” were. They found a way to deny these rights to those they thought were unfit. In some of the states, men continued to be the only ones permitted to vote. In others, women and African Americans had the right to vote, but only if they were literate. In some cases, instead of making a cross where a signature was required — which was a common practice to sign a contract — women and African Americans were given blank sheets of paper to write on for whom they wanted to vote. If they couldn’t sign their own name, how should they be able to write down the names of the persons they wanted to vote for?

Then again, other states permitted women to vote only for projects regarding children; and if an American woman married a foreign citizen, she was not permitted to vote anymore. It must have felt so frustrating for these women. So much so, until finally, they said enough is enough.

The first women to fight for voting rights had organized mid-19th century. They came together at their convention in 1848, in Seneca Falls, New York. In 1869, a new group took over, founded by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Among these women were some of the biggest names of U.S. power at the time: They came from the top 400 of New York City. These women knew the laws, were highly educated, fierce and had money. The National Woman Association was born and quickly gathered supporters throughout the U.S. Its members traveled from coast to coast, seeking supporters, speaking at political functions, gatherings and at Women’s Clubs, including the oldest civic club of Roswell, the Roswell Women’s Club.

The Daily Record gets involved in the suffrage movement

The Daily Record Archives are vast and go back to the first editions covering the early days of Roswell. For those who do not know the personality of former publishers and editors, it may be surprising that every story — even those that happened outside of New Mexico — covering the fight for women’s rights and their right to vote was published consistently on the front page, above the fold, which is reserved for the most important breaking news.

The League of Women Voters-New Mexico, collects and archives every article written about the main leaders of the suffrage movement. History chairperson of the league Machen sent us links about these human rights activists. Among them was Conie Bear (Mrs. Charles E.) Mason. History buffs will find both names Bear and Mason to be familiar. Both families were owners, editors and reporters for the Daily Record in the early 20th Century.

Social pages editor of the Daily Record, Grace Thorpe Bear, wrote in Sep. 11, 1920 edition on page 3, “The following article taken from a Nashville, Tenn., paper will be of interest to many Roswell women who heard Mrs. Isaac Reece speak in the suffrage question in Roswell last spring while she was here on a visit. …” It is clear that Roswell women were up to date on politics and the suffrage movement, thanks to the Daily Record.

Grace Thorpe Bear was the sister-in-law of Conie Bear Mason, and Conie Bear Mason’s husband, Charles E. Mason, was the editor and co-owner of the Daily Record since 1902. Harvey Bear, brother to Conie Bear Mason, was the other owner. Even then, the newspaper was a family paper.

Conie Bear Mason was one of the leading suffragettes of New Mexico. She had been not only a member of the Roswell Women’s Club, but also its president and later on, from 1917 to 1919, at the height of the fight for women’s voting rights, she served as president for the New Mexico State Federation of Women’s Clubs. Mason and the federation supported the suffrage movement and led the Roswell Suffrage League. She was the first woman appointed to a staff position in the office of Gov. Richard C. Dillon, which she held from 1929 to 1931. Mason worked until the end of her life for women’s rights and justice. She is buried next to her husband at Roswell’s South Park Cemetery.

There are so many men and women in New Mexico who were active in supporting women’s voting rights.

According to Jeanne M. Logsdon, chair of the Centennial Celebrations Committee of the League of Women Voters of Central New Mexico, even to pass the amendment was challenging. “The 19th Amendment was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1919 and sent to the states for ratification. Three-quarters of the 48 states had to pass the amendment before it could be adopted into the Constitution. New Mexico was thought likely to adopt the amendment, but could not be taken for granted. (National American Woman Suffrage Association committee member) Carrie Chapman Catt visited New Mexico in early December 1919 to meet with supporters in Albuquerque. ‘Mrs. Catt spoke at a large luncheon held in the Y.M.C.A. building, which many of the judges, newspaper representatives and other prominent men and women attended. … Mrs. Catt’s appeal was carried from one end of the state to the other through the public press and created an atmosphere of hope. This was changed to rejoicing as word came that Gov. Octaviano A. Larrazolo would call a special session of the Legislature for the ratification’ (Stanton, et al.). New Mexico became the 32nd state to ratify the 19th Amendment in February 1920. It entered the U.S. Constitution on Aug. 26, 1920, in time for women to vote in the 1920 election.”

What went relatively smoothly in New Mexico, did not go so in the North. There, in 1917, peaceful women protestors were incarcerated, tortured in jail, dogs were set upon them and some were murdered. These women fought back the only way they could, in not giving up, picketing in front of the White House, going on hunger strikes, which all was diligently reported by the press. President Woodrow Wilson had been unsupportive of the movement until he read in the press about the hunger strikes and that jailers had force-fed women raw eggs, which made them violently ill. Appalled, and without a doubt worried about his image, according to the Wilson Center, “He finally stepped in toward the fight for women’s enfranchisement, joining his daughter, leading suffragist Jessie Woodrow Wilson Sayre.”

The 19th Amendment:

 

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged

“by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”